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SA needs more radars for border safeguarding

Date: 1 December 2017

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The South African Air Force (SAAF) needs at least 50 radars to adequately protect its borders, according to a SAAF general.

Brigadier General Jacobus E Crous, speaking at the recent South African Radar Interest Group (SARIG) conference, said that there is a major requirement for border control measures to control the movement of people, animals and goods. As the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is responsible for policing South Africa’s borders, the SAAF has a requirement to integrate border control with air defence requirements.

Crous said the current ground control air defence systems are not sufficient to support airborne border safeguarding. “Having a few fixed and some mobile radars will not be sufficient as this will leave vast gaps in the border,” he said. “There are vast gaps and shortcomings that exist within the SANDF in order to address this in an efficient manner.”

Crous said that safeguarding South Africa’s borders is a unique and challenging mission as the country has a 7 660 km air border, and a 4 400 km land border. Radar coverage is required over the northern land border and northeastern maritime border and would need to include both static and mobile radar systems.

In Crous’s view, the SAAF would require 50 primary, static and medium radars to monitor and safeguard the borders. “The amount of sensors required is substantially more than what the air force currently has. It will require a very different set of resources.”

Some good news is in the form of Project Chutney, which aims to replace some mobile and fixed air defence radars operated by the South Africa Air Force. Additional funding has been allocated for this in the 2018/19 financial year.

However, Crous is concerned that the requirements for new radars will not be fully funded as there is sluggish economic growth and the defence budget is shrinking in real terms, necessitating the upgrade of existing sensors: due to inflation, the 2016/17 defence budget shrunk by almost 3% in real terms. This is scheduled to shrink further next year.

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